Category Archives: civil rights

President Obama and the Paycheck Fairness Act

By Jillian Martin, Editorial Assistant

On January 24, President Barack Obama made his annual State of the Union address. In it, he touched on important issues that will come up in the next few months as he campaigns against the Republican candidate.

While discussing his plan for economic growth, this year’s top priority, he said, “You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country.  That means women should earn equal pay for equal work.” This statement, short as it is, is important.

While women may have the right to vote, and sexual discrimination when hiring and at the workplace is illegal, women in the U.S. continue to earn less than men for equal work (approximately 78 cents to every one dollar. And let’s not forget about women of color, who are paid even less. The National Women’s Organization reports “African American women earn only 61 cents and Latinas just 52 cents [compared to every one dollar men earn for equal work].”

Since the beginning of his term, the President has been dedicated to this issue of pay equity. In fact, in 2009, the first bill that Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. When Lilly Ledbetter neared retirement, she learned that her male co-workers were paid more for equal work. The case went to the Supreme Court where the Court ruled that the statue of limitations had passed—she should have filed the suit within 180 days of the first sign of pay discrimination. The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, says the suit can be filed 180 days after the most recent paycheck that shows discrimination, thereby making it much easier for women to file for claims in cases of pay inequity.

Art by Angelica Garcia, 17, Illinois

Obama’s support of the Lilly Ledbetter Act three years ago was critical to its transition from an idea to a legally enforceable mandate.  And this year, Obama is making it clear that he is still committed to pay equity.  Two days after his State of the Union Address, Obama uploaded a video to YouTube explaining why he signed the Lilly Leadbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law and why he supports the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182/H.R. 12), which some have called the “next step” toward equality and ‘closing the wage gap.’ This bill passed the House in January, but still needs to pass the Senate before it becomes a law.  The act looks to remedy pay discrimination based on sex.

If it were to pass, the Paycheck Fairness Act would work to end the discrimination of pay between women and men by implementing specific regulations and creating more opportunities for women to be paid equally, and to protest when they are not. Some of these regulations include requiring education, training, and work experience as determinants in or reasons for a change in pay or position. Additionally, employees would be legally allowed to discuss their wages with co-workers, if they so wished, which would enlighten someone if he or she was being underpaid. Women would be given the chance to participate in negotiation training, where they would develop skills to negotiate their salary. On a broad scale, the bill would bring a great change to the workforce practices in place today.

While it is heartening that the Paycheck Fairness Act has been reinstated for debate in Congress since our blog entry: “Congress Votes Down Paycheck Fairness Act” in November 2010, there is still a long way to go before this bill becomes law. As young women, this law may not seem relevant to you yet, but it is. Over the course of your lifetime, it could mean millions of dollars more in your pocket.

As the 2012 Presidential election approaches, we hope to see this wage gap issue and other women’s rights issues discussed among the candidates.

For more on the Paycheck Fairness Act and Obama’s policy on equal rights, visit the following websites: the National Organization for Women, the American Association for University Women, and The President’s Record on Equal Rights.

Congress Votes Down Paycheck Fairness Act

By Ashley Morris

On Wednesday, the Paycheck Fairness Act was voted down. What exactly does this mean for the future of women’s wages? American women continue to earn less than men, and the Paycheck Fairness Act would have addressed the loopholes employers have used to keep women from earning less.

Hillary Clinton, then a senator representing New York, introduced the 2009 Pay Check Fairness Act to strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963. In our April blog post, April 20 Is Equal Pay Day, we discussed the importance of a bill like this becoming law.

Fifty-eight voters approved the bill and 41 were against it.  It would have taken just two additional senators’ votes to pass the bill. But despite the bill’s failure by such a small margin, the fight for equal pay is far from over. The bill can be reinstated, but will have to go through both chambers of the new Congress next year.

On Wednesday, President Obama expressed his disappointment with Congress’s failure to pass the act, and said, “My administration will continue to fight for a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work.”

News like this is a great incentive to get more involved in finding out what your state elected officials are supporting when it comes to women’s rights and equal pay. Spread the word! The American Association of University Women suggests adding a pay equity web sticker to your website or blog to promote equal pay action. If you‘re looking for more ways on how to get involved, you can download a Pay Equity Resource kit at aauw.org. And write to your senators! Your voice can inspire those around you to become supporters for change in the fight for equal pay rights.

For more information on pay equity, visit aauw.org and opencongress.org.

Know Your Rights on Cyberbullying

By Ashley Morris and Jessica Moore

As a recent spate of teen suicides so sadly proves, American teens are locked in a bullying crisis. Do you know your legal rights if you’re being bullied?

In a state with a strong law against bullying, such as Massachusetts, bullying includes, “acts or threats conducted by any device that transfers signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo-electronic or photo-optical system.” This means cyberbullying is a crime and is punishable by fines and imprisonment.  Bullypolice.org offers a full explanation of each state’s laws on bullying and indicates whether each state considers cyberbullying communication a criminal offense.

The National Crime Prevention Council notes that teens believe cyberbullies find their actions funny, don’t think their bullying is a big deal, and don’t worry about the consequences. With cyberbullying at the root of a spate of teen suicides, teens need to know that these points are disastrously false.

Cyberbullying: What you need to know

  • If someone is cyberbullying you on a social network or website, you have the right to report them. Wiredsafety.org provides a cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and harassment  report form to help stop online bullying.
  • Find out about your school’s legal authority.  It can be difficult for schools to discipline bullying that occurs off school grounds. StopCyberbullying.org suggests working to see if a provision can be added to your school’s policies if there are strict on-campus discipline laws.
  • Get familiar with IP addresses. An IP address is a number that identifies a computer on the internet and can be used to locate and prove an individual is bullying you. For more information on IP tracking, go to StopCyberbullying.org.
  • Saving evidence of your bully’s online threats is important; Internet Service Providers often discard online information that could incriminate an online perpetrator (such as online chat communication).

What you can do to delete cyberbullying

The National Crime Prevention Council offers these guidelines for preventing cyberbullying:

  • Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages
  • Tell friends to stop cyberbullying
  • Block communication with cyberbullies
  • Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult

In August, New York passed a new anti-bullying law, the Dignity for All Students Act, which will help the state move toward a school environment free of discrimination and bullying. This is a big step for New York, but there are still states that have little or no legal authority against bullying (Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota).  Every effort makes a difference, so make sure you write to your state and local senators to push for anti-bullying laws in these states.

Do your part to prevent bullying before this crisis becomes even more widespread.

Civil Rights and the Young People’s Project: One Girl’s Trip to the SNNC 50th Anniversary Conference

By Deamonte Tibbs-Petty,
The Young People’s Project

The Young People’s Project is a non-profit group dedicated to raising math literacy and working for social change. Their mission is to change the quality of mathematics education for children. As part of that group, I traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, in April for the SNNC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) 50th Anniversary Conference. More than 1,100 people attended the conference, which was both a celebration and a documentation of those who fought for social change in 1960.

I learned about so many inspiring people in the civil rights movement, and saw what they have achieved by fighting against racism and fighting for equality. One powerful woman I learned about was Ella Baker, an activist and civil rights organizer who was a strong leader and speaker for her community. To me, she is the definition of a role model because she stood up to oppression and fought for equal rights for the black community. Baker once said, “Strong people don’t need strong leaders.” This quote stuck with me because it reminds me that we all have enough willpower to lead ourselves.

At first I didn’t understand what SNCC had to do with YPP, until our College Math Literacy Workers explained to us that Bob Moses was in the civil rights movement and the actions he took to get his daughter to learn math are the reason we now have the Algebra Project and YPP. We were very lucky to be able to hear the SNCC stories. I appreciate what Bob Moses and SNCC have done because if it wasn’t for them taking brutal beatings and disrespect to come together and march for what’s right, my high school wouldn’t have the diversity and love it has today. No one is being judged or discriminated against because of the color of their skin. We are all treated like human beings, and to me that is love.

Besides going to workshops at Shaw University to listen to the activists, we also met other YPP coordinators and staff from places like Jackson, Mississippi and Chicago. Meeting students from all the YPP sites was a good experience for me because I got to see that we all want to make a change in our communities.

At one workshop, we did an activity called “Neighbor Circle.” We formed groups and got to know each other like neighbors. We had to pick a major problem that happens in our community and talk about how our group would work together to fix it. Many of us found we share the same ideas when it comes to wanting school to provide extra help, clubs, and money for those who need it. We felt that the way math is being taught makes it difficult for kids to learn, whether because of bad supplies or the scarce amount of teachers.

I feel like I have grown from this trip. I now understand that if you want to make changes for the better, you have to stand up for your beliefs. My ancestors’ fight against struggles and abuse make the world a better place today. I learned that you can make a change without using violence. The civil rights leaders were the role models and leaders of that time and now they are passing down knowledge so we can be role models for kids in the generations to come. Everyone in YPP has high hopes and dreams that students will become powerful adults who will make a difference.

View photos from the SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference.

TEEN VOICES BLOG to the rescue!

By: Jocelyn Perez

The blogs and websites of magazines like Seventeen, People, and CosmoGirl can make a smart girl want to______.This is when blogging hits the spot.

What kind of world do we live in? Everybody is so caught up in the idea of weight, makeup, boys, celebrities and other useless things teens shouldn’t be worrying about. We should be focusing on our education and learning about the world. We could contribute to our society instead of supporting the ideas the media puts out to make us feel bad about ourselves and the way that we look.

Even though we may not know it, every time we look at that “perfect” girl or that “perfect” couple, it eats away at our self-esteem little by little.  I believe this is what makes us think we aren’t beautiful and that we have to change the way we look.

It isn’t our fault society is caught up in artificial thoughts and we shouldn’t have to pay the price. The media makes you think that you should look a certain way so you can buy products to “help you.” UGH! Finally, we have TEEN VOICES BLOG to the rescue because this stuff is ridiculous.

Teen Voices is a teen magazine but not just ANOTHER teen magazine. This magazine is written by teen girls and is different because it focuses on real teen issues and not on celebrities which have nothing to do with us. Teen Voices Blog will tackle and pick at the important things in life and real teen girl issues. This would be issues like: teen drug use, teen plastic surgery, GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) information, school budget cuts, sexual abuse, teen dating violence, body image problems and other stories to help you grow as a person and prepare you to become a strong, young woman.

Feel free to write us about anything and everything you think about our blog posts because what really matters is what YOU have to say. Leave a comment :)